Thursday, November 2, 2006

a poem

Gwendolyn Skaggs
november 2 - january 6, 2007

Using color photographs as syll-ables, words, and phrases, a poem, a recent work of art by Gwendolyn Skaggs, embraces and portrays essential structural elements of poetry in a compelling visual narrative. Thoughtfully ordered, the differing images are linear in arrangement, rhythmic in character, and punctuated horizontally along the wall with occasional breaks that visually intone a modification of context, or broadening of metaphor. The small vignettes gain momentum towards an ever developing verse in staccato. Each image carries its own distinctive resonance and when experienced in a line, either one to one, or group to group, their serial effect creates a cohesive visual lyricism that evokes the presence of a tangible, delicately rendered poem.

Gwendolyn Skaggs

Haiku is a style of prose poetry. It is a form of Japanese poetry, the late 19th century revision by Masaoka Shiki of the older hokku, the opening verse of a linked verse form, haikai no renga. The traditional hokku consisted of a pattern of approximately 5, 7, 5 on. The Japanese word on, meaning "sound", corresponds to a mora, a phonetic unit similar but not identical to the syllable of a language such as English. (The words onji, ("sound symbol") or moji (character symbol) are also sometimes used.) A haiku contains a special season word (the kigo) representative of the season in which the renga is set, or a reference to the natural world.
Hokku usually combine two (or rarely, three) different phrases, with a distinct grammatical break (kireji) usually at the end of either the first five or second seven morae. These elements of the older hokku are considered by many to be essential to haiku as well, although they are not always included by modern writers of Japanese "free-form haiku" and of non-Japanese haiku. Japanese haiku are typically written as a single line, while English language haiku are tra-ditionally separated into three lines.

example of hokku:
Oku no Hosomichi (1689)
The rough sea / stretching out towards Sado / the Milky Way.

In Japanese, nouns do not have different singular and plural forms, so 'haiku' is usually used as both a singular and plural noun in English as well.

Hokku or haiku?
Hokku were always written in the wider context of haikai no renga, either actually or theoretically (even when printed individually). At the end of the 19th century, Shiki separated the opening verse from the linked form and applied the term haiku to it. Because it was only after this separation that the term became popular, scholars agree that it is technically incorrect to label hokku by pre-Shiki writers "haiku", a common practice in the 20th century. The persistent confusion on the topic is exemplified by David Barnhill's anthology Basho¯'s Haiku (2005): in spite of the title, Barnhill admits that "the individual poems that Basho¯ created are, properly speaking, "hokku", and that he used the term haiku because it seemed more familiar. They were some of the most popular poems in Japan in the 16th century.

Haiku is one of the most happy and important forms of traditional Japanese poetry. Haiku is, today, a 17-syllable verse form consist-ing of three metrical units of 5, 7, and 5 syllables. Since early days, there has been confusion between the three related terms Haiku, Hokku and Haikai. The term hokku literally means "starting verse", and was the first starting link of a much longer chain of verses known as haika. Because the hokku set the tone for the rest of the poetic chain, it enjoyed a privileged position in haikai poetry, and it was not uncommon for a poet to compose a hokku by itself without following up with the rest of the chain. Though there are a variety of approaches to the translation of Haiku poetry (all of which help us to explore the issues involved in translation from the Japanese), Haiku are normally translated into (and written in) English using 3 lines.

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